Fonds GB 0210 WELANY - Welsh National Opera Records

Identity area

Reference code



Welsh National Opera Records


  • 1944-2004 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

12.012 cubic metres (420 boxes, 3 large folio envelopes)

Context area

Name of creator

Administrative history

Welsh National Opera (WNO) was founded in 1943, by a small group of Cardiff-based musicians and music enthusiasts, with the aim of forming an amateur singing company that would utilise local talent and resources for staging grand operas. It was originally called 'The Lyrian Grand Opera Company', but at the first general meeting to launch the company, held on 2 December 1943, the name was changed to 'The Welsh National Opera Company.' The newly-formed company confirmed its original aims to stage large-scale operas in local theatres and to develop Welsh singing talent, but also stated its intention to gradually extend productions beyond Cardiff venues and tour all of the major cities and towns in Wales. Idloes Owen (d. 1954), a well-known Cardiff singing teacher and choral conductor, served as its first Musical Director and General Manager.

Performances began in Cardiff in 1945 with concerts of operatic excerpts given in a variety of small local venues, such as the Cory Hall, the Empire Theatre and the Capitol Cinema, followed in 1946 by the first full season of opera performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cardiff. By 1948 the Welsh National Opera Company had become a limited company and had established an additional performance base in Swansea. The company began to increase its performances in both Cardiff and Swansea, and in 1951 embarked on a small tour of Wales, performing in Aberystwyth and Llandudno.

In 1970, following many years of collaboration with various professional orchestras, a permanent in-house orchestra, the Welsh Philharmonia, was formed. It was renamed the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera in 1979. The Chorus, which had maintained an amateur status since its formation, achieved full professional status in 1973. The company began to recruit international singers for leading roles and expanded its repertoire and tour venues. For a short time the WNO combined with the Cardiff-based Welsh Drama Company to become the Welsh National Opera and Drama Company. However, the work of the Drama Company came under continued criticism, and the partnership ended in 1979 with the formal demise of the Welsh Drama Company.

Under the guidance of a succession of general managers and musical directors, including Brian McMaster (1976-1991), Matthew Epstein (1991-1994), Anthony Freud (1994-present), Richard Armstrong (1973-1987), Sir Charles Mackerras (1987-1991) and Carlo Rizzi (1992-2001) the WNO has emerged as a major force in the operatic world, and continues to tour extensively across Wales and Britain, and to make guest appearances in many North American and European cities. In 2004 the WNO moved into a purpose-built theatre in the new Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, thereby establishing a firmer rehearsal and administrative base from which to mount major productions as well as education and outreach work.

Welsh National Opera is a permanent company comprising chorus, principal singers, orchestra and music, production, technical and administrative staff. It is a registered charity (221538) governed by a Board of Directors and reliant upon a combination of public funding from regional arts councils and local government bodies, in partnership with funding from the commercial and private sectors. The company has a General Director as its principal officer, and additional directors and managers for the main internal departments.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

An initial deposit was received by NLW in 1987 by the Welsh National Opera Ltd, per Mr Anthony Freud, Company Secretary, followed by a donation in 2004 per Matt Broom, WMC Project Co-ordinator, Welsh National Opera Ltd, Cardiff.; 0200412270

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Records, 1944-2004, of the Welsh National Opera including administrative files and correspondence, 1943-1999; grant applications and supporting papers, 1987-1999; vocal scores, 1956-1997; stage management records, 1959-2001; administrative files relating to specific productions, 1976-2002; marketing material, 1944-2004; committee material and papers relating to the proposed Cardiff Bay Opera House, 1986-1996; and records of the Welsh Drama Company, 1971-1979.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Action: All records donated to NLW have been retained apart from duplicates, which have been destroyed (see appraisal form LST/2012/1)..


Accruals to the collection are likely.

System of arrangement

Arranged at NLW in 3 sections: 1987 deposit; administrative records; production records. The 1987 deposit (administrative and production records) has been transferred retrospectively to this on-linecatalogue, and this accounts for certain irregularities between the descriptions from that deposit and those of the later accruals. Original file titles have been retained.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

English unless otherwise specified.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A hard copy of the 1987 deposit is available at NLW. The catalogue can be accessed online.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

1 CD set entitled 'Terezin the Music 1941-44' and 1 audio cassette tape have been transferred to the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales at NLW (see file level descriptions P2/11 and P1/33); 6 floppy disks have been transferred to NLW's Digital Repository.

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


Access points

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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

This description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) Second Edition; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

1998 and 2008; amended 2012.


  • English



Archivist's note

Compiled by Graham C. G. Thomas and Lorena Lord.

Archivist's note

The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Fawkes, Richard, 'Welsh National Opera' (London, 1986); Lewis, Huw, 'Welsh National Opera: Celebrating 50 Years' (Bangor, 1996); Welsh National Opera website; and material within the archive itself.

Accession area

Related people and organizations

Related genres

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Physical storage

  • Text: Welsh National Opera Papers.